An idea conceived by an Ottoman sultan 150 years ago is finally coming to life: Turkey this week opened the first sea tunnel connecting two continents. The 8.5-mile-long tunnel connects the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, with 4,593 feet of it running under the Bosporus, the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and cleaves the city in two. Turkish officials say that at more than 60 yards deep, it is the deepest submerged railway tunnel of its type in the world, and Al Jazeera reports it was built to weather a 9.0-magnitude earthquake. And with the ability to handle 1.5 million daily travelers, the Independent reports that it's expected to do wonders for the notoriously traffic-ridden city.
But not all of Turkey's people think it's a project worth celebrating. Many have argued the "lavish" project, OKed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then mayor of Istanbul, is unnecessary. And then there were the delays, and Erdogan's reaction to them: The project began in 2005; a scheduled 2009 completion date came and went, in part due to important archaeological finds, including a 4th-century Byzantine port, reports the AP. This was Ergodan's rather unwelcome reaction to the discovery: "First [they said] there was archaeological stuff, then it was clay pots, then this, then that. Is any of this stuff more important than people?" (Israel uncovered a tunnel of a very different nature this month.)